We have reached the end of possibly the best class I have ever attended. Not only was social media use a requirement in this course – which is a good thing in my opinion – professor Pierre Lévy was clear, concise and charismatic. (Believe it or not, I’m not a sycophant, I’m just expressing my honest opinion). Additionally, I was forced to break the ice, tweeting and blogging for the first time adding new online venues for me to explore. So, for my first blogpost, I’ll discuss the additional skillsets/epiphanies that this Theories of Media course have given me.
Many attractive topics were discussed in this course and it took me a week and a few drafts to finally come up with the one topic that stood out the most for me; well actually, two topics that fit within the same domain, critical thinking and reliable sources. Of course, I will slip a few other things that I have learned that apply to these topics.
Although, I considered myself to be an avid critical thinker/skeptic, I’ve noticed throughout this class that my cognitive bubble was not as big as I thought it was because I lacked in variety when it came to acquiring online information. I would argue that the main reason for this cognitive confinement, is my regular use of social media for news. (Social media became the main online source for news feeds around 2010).
Professor Pierre Lévy explained that sites such as Facebook use a form of artificial intelligence and Big Data to detect and learn your behaviour through your browsing habits, likes, and activities to suggest products and news feeds. This, of course, limited the diversity of information I would acquire over time from social media; constricting my cognitive bubble by offering more narrowed data that would catch my attention. Coincidentally, these free social media products and their AI algorithms turn the user into the product. One method used to turn the user into a product is click-bait, which encourages you to click a link to another website by attracting your attention, which, in turn, generates advertising revenue for the site that you are on. These enlightening realizations led me to immediately minimize my use of these unreliable sources of information.
To broaden my field of vision to a 360-degree perspective, I browsed the web for a multitude of reliable sources that have definitely changed my current perceptions on what is true and what is fake information. I’d like to share a few resources on varied topics with you:
- One could easily argue that health and medicine are not only the most important topics online, they are the most ridden with false/inaccurate information. From pseudo medicine, to non-professional diagnoses, finding reliable resources that are proven to be correct is desponding to say the least. Here is my most trusted source on the matter: http://www.cochrane.org.
- For other general inquiries on a variety of topics I usually refer to these two websites/magazines: http://www.skeptic.com and http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Main_Page.
Of course, I don’t build my conclusions solely on these sources, they are just my main “go to’s” for information.
Having reliable sources is one thing, analyzing the information and constructing your own narratives/conclusions is another.
Critical thinking is key to building reliable conclusions. Actually, “critical thinking is an important ability in all aspects of life!”.
Acquiring reliable resources would be the second step among three significant steps for critical thought. Here are the 3 steps for critical thinking:
- Acquiring a much data as possible. In other words, increasing your cognitive bubble to gain a more accurate understanding
- Deciphering the data and verifying that the information/sources are reliable by viewing them from as many angles as possible (a 360 degree field of view).
- Building a logical, unbiased conclusion based on the acquired information.
The first step is the most lengthy yet easiest part. The two last parts are the most difficult because you have to be able to remove as much personal bias that you can and, if required, you must be able to unlearn and relearn new material(s) and habit(s).
I must admit that the material learned in this course has broaden my horizon and not only in regards to the subject matter discussed in this blog, but my perspective on media, politics, and information sharing as well. Additionally, we learned about the advent of the internet, the impact of artificial intelligence in our everyday social lives, the positive and negative impacts of social media in politics and scientific research, blockchains, the five cannons of rhetoric, and the list goes on and on.
For me thought, what holds importance with knowledge and communication is truth/facts, and professor Pierre Lévy help me get closer to what matters most to me. I’d like to end my first blog post with a quote from Aristotle that was posted by a class colleague on our joint Twitter feed:
Thank you professor and thank you classmates for sharing your thoughts with me this semester.